A Year to Remember

Lisa Mensah, President of the Opportunity Finance Network, told me just before Christmas, “I should talk to you more often, I always come away feeling more optimistic.”

What I was telling her was not out of the ordinary around here.  

The site visit the week prior with two impact investors whom she knew. By impact investors, I mean the types of foundations and individuals who make loans to ROC USA Capital so we can relend to co-ops looking to purchase and improve their communities.

The investors and I visited several Directors of the Meadowbrook co-op community in Hudson, Mass., a 193-home community that became resident-owned in November, 2018. Those Directors had plenty to say. (I stayed mostly quiet while enjoying Diane’s terrific Grape Nut Pudding!)

After the site visit, one of the investors said to me, “Wow! Every one of their stories point to a more connected neighborhood now where people are looking out for each other’s well-being. That is so rare, and so important.”

I also told Lisa about the first resident-owned community solar project in Lebanon, N.H. where co-op members are saving $22 a month, and the 56-home Midvale, Utah community that was saved from eventual closure in 2018.

Of course, these individual stories are multiplied by hundreds in the now 228 co-ops and nearly 15,000 Member-Owners in our national network. Every locally-owned co-op has the support of regional and national networks of like-communities as well as a group of dedicated nonprofit organizations.

Lisa was elated when I told her that our 10-year goal is to serve 30,000 Member-Owners in 500 co-ops.

It’s been a tremendous year, with 17 new co-ops joining our network. We welcomed two new states – Rhode Island and Colorado – bringing us to 16 states that have networked co-ops. We are one-third of the way to serving the 49 states that have Manufactured Home Communities. We’re hoping to enter the Carolinas and open a new affiliate in Texas in 2019!

This year was also our 10th year operating nationally. If you haven’t watched the video, please do. It was done for us by the National Co-op Bank as a 10-year present.

You’ll gasp at the “Open House” statement in the video. That statement has motivated a video competition called Noble Homes. Please check it out and share it widely. We are looking for any videographers – amateurs and professionals alike! There are cash prizes! Please help us reframe how people think about these communities and the homeowners in them. Help us make it the last gasp!

As the year draws to a close, I want to thank all of the outstanding contributions by the many people and organizations that make resident ownership viable and successful.

Co-op Member-Owners and leaders top the list along with the staffs of our affiliated Certified Technical Assistance Providers that work for regional nonprofits and serve the development and training needs of co-ops. None of this would be possible without both of these groups of people.

Thank you to our national staff, ROC Association Directors, and ROC USA’s Directors who are just amazingly dedicated to our mission.

And, to our donors and capital providers, thank you. Thank you for helping us deliver capital to a group of homeowners who at first can’t believe there are organizations like ours. In 2017, together, we delivered over $46 million to new co-op communities in our network. Most of that – over $30 million – came from ROC USA Capital, our Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). However, as readers will know, we work with numerous banks, insurance companies, state Housing Finance Authorities and other CDFIs to make that possible.

All of these people, organizations and companies have come to resident ownership because of a belief: A belief in the inherent strength and motivation of homeowners and co-op leaders, a belief in ROC USA and its Network of CTAPs, and a belief that there’s nothing more important that a safe and secure home on land that homeowners own and control.

We continue to believe because we see it working every day, and have every reason to believe we’ll see it through more tremendous co-op accomplishments next year and beyond. Happy New Year!